Sunday, 1 January 2017

Trump: What to do

The hysteria about the election of Trump as president largely misses the point. Yes, he is dangerously impulsive, horribly narcissistic, incompetent, arrogant – and all the rest. Yes, he can and is already showing clear signs of actually doing enormous harm to the people of the United States and of the rest of the world. But, that is not the point. Many nations, in fact most nations, in the world have had, at some point, someone like Trump at the helm. There are so many examples in recent history and examples could be traced all the way back into ancient times. Damage has been done, tragedies occurred. But, at some time also, they fall from power and the people readjust, perhaps somewhat wiser—for a time!

Trump will do harm; the people will be watchful; some may find the means to limit the damage and perhaps even remove him from office. Rather than ranting about how awful he is, the people need to be paying attention to how he can be restrained or even removed and, in the meantime, we must do what we can to protect the most vulnerable and sustain the best of life around us.

Trump can do enormous damage. However, after his four or eight years, life will take another turn just as it has so many times in the past after a totally incompetent or brutal leader has ruled. Life and the society that nourishes it will continue.

What is important is to pay attention to the political and cultural system that brought him to power and to readjust that system so that there are safeguards. There will certainly be a need to reconsider the constitutional and political mechanisms that made the election of such a man possible.

Surely we can deal with the long-term health of society rather than ranting about what a terrible man he is. There is hard work ahead for all of us during these next few years to limit the harm, protect people and prepare for what comes afterward. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016


Never in its history has so much cultural and historic diversity been present in North America.  The Catholic Church has a serious problem with this diversity. The difficulties include gender (including sexual orientation and women), cultural identity (African, Asian, Latin American, Indigenous) as well as the diversity inherent in human relationships with the earth (air, water, land) as well as its many living creatures). The difficulty derives not so much from its religious sources as from the way in which the Catholic Church has absorbed many of the historical biases of its cultural setting derived from Europe especially including its implication in the whole process of colonization. The emphasis on monotheism to the exclusion of other deities also plays a role[1]
Many theologians are working on these questions following the lead of major thinkers who have analyzed our collective history from the point of view of various disciplines (sociology, anthropology, psychology) in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. We can learn from them.
Far be it from me to attempt to unravel, especially here in an informal blog, the complicated ways in which the Church perpetuates its barriers to full recognition and appreciation of diversity within its midst and around it. Suffice it to say that a broad descriptive study is needed followed by a thorough deconstruction of the resulting mechanisms and a call for action to reconstruct our religious tradition in ways that go beyond the current impasse.
At the very least, it needs to be said that the underlying foundations for the problems with diversity in the Catholic Church are multi-layered. These include its hierarchical structure and the allocation of privilege and power and its omnipresent patriarchy. Some have suggested that clerical privilege has formed a culture of sociopathy. At work in this clerical culture is an institutional mentality that favours the personal interests of those who wield power and that separates them from the world of those they are called to serve in such a way that it is difficult for them to understand the needs of others.[2] It must also be said that there is an underlying racism inherent in an uncritical reading of the scriptures and fostered by a culture of superiority rooted ultimately in strands of Judaism and also the understanding of citizenship in the Roman Empire. These roots were exacerbated by European attitudes beginning in the 16th century during contact with Africa and the New World of “America.”
However, beyond searching for the sources of the Church’s difficulty with diversity, we need also to consider the foundations for welcoming diversity. There is the question of welcoming of unmarried couples, gay marriages, divorced couples and women in ministry. As well we need to reconsider the inculturations of faith among Indigenous peoples in Africa, in North and also South America. There is a particular urgency with regard to the reception of other religious traditions. Are we willing to admit that God has been at work in Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Indigenous traditions ( to name a few) and that God works through those traditions to advance the fullness of God’s reign in the world? I would argue that an examination of those Indigenous tradition embracing a multiplicity of deities provides an interesting template for examining the dangers of the kind of monotheism proposed by the “Religions of the Book” (Jewish, Christian and Islam).
Already scholars have made several approaches in this reflection . Some have proposed to examine the communalities in belief or moral values. There is also the approach that considers those social concerns on which we can collaborate through interreligious coalitions much as we have done for several decades in ecumenical work. However, I would like to suggest that the foundational work needs to be done from an understanding of who we are as humans. Unfortunately, modern capitalist culture has handed over to us a view of the human as an atomized consumer. This goes against the grain of practically all traditional cultures, including those of Western Europe until fairly recently. Along with many eminent thinkers I would like to suggest that community is a basic starting point for understanding being human and further that this relationship in community is a fundamental starting point for understanding diversity in inter-religious  and social dialogue. Moreover, I would like to suggest that Bernard Lonergan’s insistence on the capacity of humans to engage in an endless search for meaning and worth reveals an openness to the transcendent that is at the very heart of being human. If this is so then the great spiritual and religious traditions of the world find a profound common ground in these dimensions of being human.

[1] See the reflection of Elochukuw Kuzukum, “Multiplicity of Deities in Indigenous Religions of West Africa,” Religion, Human Dignity and Liberation, edited by Gerald M. Boodoo, World Forum on Theology and Liberation, 2016 (Oiso Editora). The reflection of Marcelo Barros, “The World Social forum: A Secular Mysticism and Inter-religious Dialogue” in the same volume is also helpful.
[2] See A. W. Richard Sipe. Two excerpts from his book “Sexual Abuse in the Church, Plante & McChesney, Eds. 2011 were reprinted in the Island Catholic News (Victoria, B.C.) 2016 (Summer and Autumn edition). 

Sunday, 28 August 2016


César Vallejo was an important Peruvian poet of the early 20th century (+ 1938). I have always particularly admired his collection Los Heraldos Negros. They are dark but extraordinarily heartfelt and compassionate.  Here is one in the original Spanish (not hard to translate with google translate).

Siento a Dios que camina
tan en mí, con la tarde y con el mar.
Con él nos vamos juntos. Anochece.
Con él anochecemos. Orfandad ...

Pero yo siento a Dios. Y hasta parece
que él me dicta no sé qué buen color.
Como un hospitalario, es bueno y triste;
mustia un dulce desdén de enamorado;
debe dolerle mucho el corazón.

O Dios mío, recién a tí me llego,
hoy que amo tanto en esta tarde, hoy
que en la falsa balanza de unos sueños,
mido y lloro una frágil Creación.
Y tú, cuál llorás. .. tú, enamorado
de tanto enorme seno girador. ..
Yo te consagro Dios, porque amas tanto;
porque jamás sonríes, porque siempre
debe dolerte mucho el corazón.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


    I think it's time we had a closer look at what Bernie Sanders has effectively accomplished. He has gained the support of millions of young people who are about to vote for the first time. Most of all he has led them directly into the camp of Hilary Clinton and the Democratic Party Establishment. He has added millions of votes to the presidential campaign of Hilary Clinton and thus given her a really significant boost.
     This may not be what he intended but, it is what he did. And his efforts need to be evaluated on that point.
     Well over and above the "Trump phenomenon," there is something quite disturbing about this aspect of America politics at this point.